The Trunk Show That Started It All


With a plethora of new fashion presentations deviating away from traditional formats (such as runway shows), trunk shows are definitely more of a lost art nowadays. One trunk show—or, series of trunk shows I should say—I found interesting however, are the ones that kickstarted the career of the one and only Steve Madden.



Born and raised in NY, he was the son of a textile manufacturer and a housewife. It was a high school job at a shoe store that sparked his interest in shoes. Steve Madden stated in a later interview with Johanna Berkman for New York magazine “I was 16 years old. My boss was 26. He had his own business. He was this really cool guy. He drove a Mercedes. He was my idol."


After just 2 unsuccessful years at the University of Miami, he moved back to NYC, where he sold shoes for what would’ve been his last 2 years of college (1980). Rather than traditional schooling, it was an 8-year gig at a wholesale firm (LJ Simone) that taught him everything he needed to know about how shoes were manufactured and marketed. Two years later (1990), after his leaving the firm, Steve Madden Ltd. was founded.


Steve Madden had 500 pairs of shoes made in his own design, and began to sell them to local shoe stores—out of the trunk of his car. That first design was a pointed-toe clog called the “Marilyn”. His first major success was the “Mary Lou” (an exaggerated variation of the classic Mary Jane shoe style. It was platform shoes & chunky-heeled styles that gave his company its claim to fame, and it all started with a trunk show.




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